This past week, I worked with a client who described her hamstrings as “being on fire”.  She is young, fit, and healthy, and had not reported any kind of injury or trauma.  Her only complaint was that during her workout the previous day, she felt her hamstrings, and only her hamstrings, with every exercise that she did.

Lunges?  “I could only feel my hamstrings.”

Seated rows?  “I could only feel my hamstrings.”

Back extensions?  “I could only feel my hamstrings.”

It seemed that regardless of the area of her body that she trained, she could only feel her hamstrings.

This, naturally, begged the question in her mind, “What is wrong with my hamstrings?”


As a Muscle Activation Techniques® specialist, I began assessing how well her joints moved and how well her muscles could contract.  Interestingly enough, out of all of the things that I looked at, her hamstrings were the only muscles that were contracting well!

What muscles weren’t contracting well for her?  Her spinal erectors, her glutes, and her lats.  Even though those areas and muscles were completely asymptomatic, those were the ones that needed the most attention.  Those were the ones that needed a little extra muscle tutoring.

Her hamstrings were her check engine light.  They were the symptom telling her that something in her body was off.  They had to be tight and contracting hard to make up for all of the other muscles that weren’t contracting well.  They were working overtime without any of their “colleagues” to help out, so, of course, they were going to feel tight, overworked, and stressed out.

Imagine this:  You are part of a team of seven people.  On Monday, three of the people call in sick.  Can four people do the job of seven?  Probably for a little bit, but not for long.  You would definitely be “compensating” to get the work done.

What if, on Tuesday, all six of the other people on your team call in sick?  Can you do the work that seven people were supposed to do?  Likely not.

Now, who in this situation is feeling uptight, overworked, and stressed out?  Your six team members who are at home relaxing or you who is doing all the work?

Want to know the irony of the situation?  YOU are the only one doing your job.  YOU are the only one working.  In order to reduce your stress, you could go home, but then NO work gets done.  Or, you could call up your six team members and get them back to work.  Then you wouldn’t have to do the job of everybody, more work would get done, and everything would be more efficient.

With your muscles, the “work” they do is helping you to exercise, move throughout the day, do daily chores, play with your kids, and keep your posture.  When more muscles are on board and able to fully help with these activities, everything starts to feel easier and less stressful.  You are able to perform these activities more efficiently and for longer periods of time.

Often times, the symptoms that we feel when our muscles get really tight are a sign that they are having to do more than their fair share of the work.  With Muscle Activation Techniques®, our job is to find the muscles that are not doing their fair share and get them back up to speed with the ones that are working overtime.  This often results in the stressed and overworked muscles feeling less tight, less achy, and less stressed.  Once they have their other muscle “colleagues” helping them do the work, more work is able to get done and nothing is feeling overworked.

Getting back to my client story, after helping her spinal erectors, glutes, and lats contract better, her hamstrings calmed down and she no longer felt “only her hamstrings”.

If your muscles are feeling uptight, overworked, or stressed out, it may be an indicator that other muscles are not doing their fair share of the work.  Seek out your local Muscle Activation Techniques® specialist to have your muscular system addressed for these imbalances and get back to doing the things you love to do!

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Charlie Cates

Charlie has been helping men develop their strength and athleticism since 2008. A former college athlete turned sports performance coach at the collegiate and professional levels, he has taken his knowledge of athletic and muscle-building performance and combined it with an advanced education in biomechanics, physiology, and biochemistry to help men in their 30s and beyond build their strength and health without injury. A father of two, he has authored the best-selling book "The Exercise For Life Method" and hosts the highly-acclaimed Exercise Is Health® podcast with his wife, Julie. He is a certified full-body MATRx practitioner, the highest certification level of Muscle Activation Techniques®. In 2016, he graduated with a Master's degree in Exercise Science. Follow him on Instagram @CharlieCates!